First 100 Days: Taxes, a Tribute and Assessing Obama

Steve Highsmith's Political Blog

Mayor Michael Nutter supports President Barack Obama's action on the economy, but he reminds and cautions that the job-creating stimulus portion will not necessarily have an immediate effect on cities.

Mayor Nutter tells me, "In the near term, we still have bills to pay. We have services to provide and we can't provide them with the stimulus dollars directly, so we will have to make significant changes in the way we operate and cut some of our costs in order to close a billion dollar gap." As to whether that means raising taxes is a possibility, he tells me, “I think it's on the table from a conversation standpoint." He went on to say, "Everything's on the table. Nothing's been ruled in or out." The Mayor tackled the first shortfalls in the budget without going the tax hike route.  His stated goal and his career record suggest he still wants to avoid higher taxes, but if Philadelphians continue to protest cuts, are they willing to accept tax increases? The recent Pew survey shows an evenly divided city on that score.

The City of Philadelphia announced today that it is getting more help from the federal government on the homelessness front. HUD is granting the city nearly $29 million, or about a $1 million more than last year. In a statement issued Friday, the Nutter Administration was quick to point out this money, because of how it is allocated, does not ease the city's budget crisis.

Even with such money, it's not enough for the shelter, food, education and health services needed in the region. For example, there are nonprofits in the city that do not get any of that money, but who are feeling the pressure of these tougher times. The need for their services is up, but some people may not be donating.  I spoke with Brother Alfred, of Inn Dwelling, which serves the Germantown-Mt. Airy community and he tells me a lot of people are applying for the programs Inn Dwelling provides.  He says many of them are "nontraditional" people experiencing or on the brink of experiencing homelessness. The economy is such that they struggling to pay their mortgages.

The fragility of the times we are in understandably makes us all worried, even fearful.  Add a job loss and the crisis hits home.  But, how much of the debate this week over President Barack Obama's foreclosure plan and the Economic Recovery Act which he signed in Denver have to do with genuine debate or rather two negative motivators?  How much of the disagreement is because a significant portion of the country wants him to fail, just as a significant portion wanted President George W. Bush to fail?  How many of those disagreeing are acting out of negative emotion, selfishness or fear?  It is difficult to accept that the economists and politicians who led us into or who watched unaware or silently as the nation fell into major recession all of a sudden got religion. It is the burden of those who legitimately believe the route to sounder, better times is not the path laid out by this President to separate themselves from the flak-spewing obfuscators.

What grade do you give President Barack Obama, a third of the way through his First 100 Days? Republican NBC10 Hotline analyst Jeff Jubelirer gives him a C, while Democrat NBC10 Hotline analyst Dr. Donna Gentile O'Donnell says he gets an A+ on effort and a B+ on substance.  How do they grade the Republican opposition? Jeff says they get a B, while Donna says Republicans get an A+ on effort and a D- on substance.

As Benjamin Netanyahu, famed Cheltenham High School grad, now moves to form a new coalition government and become the Prime Minister of Israel, the world will watch which Bibi we get. Will it be the Netanyahu of his conservative rhetoric? Will it be the Netanyahu of his former PM days, a more moderate PM? Or, will it be the Netanyahu of his Finance Minister days? At 59, an even more worldly Netanyahu? With Iran now having enough low-grade uranium to be ever so close to having a nuclear weapon, with the world economy in tatters and unemployment rising in Israel, odds favor the more hard-line Netanyahu, at least in terms of what he wants the world to think. What will be interesting for President Obama in his dealings with Netanyahu is that Netanyahu understands America and how things work here as well anyone, maybe better than anyone, who has ever led Israel.

President Barack Obama sent a letter today to the wife of slain Philadelphia Police Officer John Pawlowski, offering condolences and honoring the fallen officer.  Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, speaking at the funeral of Officer Pawlowski at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul, called on his colleagues in uniform to lead their lives as John did, with "honor and integrity," as they try to recover from Officer Pawlowski's death and the recent deaths of other officers in the department.  It was a moving speech by the Commissioner, especially when he directly spoke to Officer Pawlowski's wife, Kim. I couldn't help but wonder what a community we would have, if we would all take the Commissioner's advice. Sgt. Stephen Liczbinski, Officer Isabel Nazario, Sgt. Patrick McDonald, Sgt. Timothy Simpson, Officer Charles Cassidy, Policeman Walter Barclay, Officer Gary Skerski and Officer John Pawlowski deserve no less.

NBC10 Political Analyst Steve Highsmith is following President Barack Obama's First 100 Days online.

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